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New regime brings change of climate at Reuters

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Winds of change are blowing through Reuters’ environmental coverage. One of its three regional environment correspondents “is no longer with the company” and the other two have been ordered to switch focus, people inside the agency say.

A perceptible shift in Reuters’ approach to the global climate change story has attracted international attention. Scientists and climatologists as well as non-governmental and international environment bodies have detected a move from the agency’s straight coverage towards scepticism on the view held by a vast majority of scientists that climate change is the result of human pollution of the atmosphere and environment. They see generally fewer stories on the issue. Some say they have been taken aback by Reuters’ new direction and are concerned that this could contribute to a change in government and public perceptions of climate change.

The three regional environment correspondents – one each reporting on the Americas, Asia, and Europe, the Middle East and Africa – typically covered climate policy, climate science, carbon markets and energy policies and impacts on energy firms, international climate negotiations, deforestation, and climate change impacts on agriculture.

The specialist correspondent for Asia was Singapore-based
David Fogarty, who was transferred to more general news reporting before he left earlier this year after two decades with the company including four years on the Asia climate change beat. His opposite numbers in the other two regions are Alister Doyle, based in Oslo from where he has written about the environment for a decade, and Deborah Zabarenko, based in Washington from where she has reported on the environment and climate change since 2006.

Typical of the new focus of environment reporting – insiders say editors and sub-editors have also been steered in the new direction – was a story earlier this year headed
Climate scientists struggle to explain warming slowdown. It reported that some experts were saying their trust in climate science had declined because of many uncertainties.

A blog posting on
The Guardian website challenged the premise of the report and said warming was in fact speeding up. It asked Why is Reuters puzzled by global warming’s acceleration? The Guardian said: “We often hear from the media that the (surface air) warming has slowed or paused over the past 15 years. This isn’t a puzzle; climate scientists are well aware of several contributing factors, as a recent Reuters article… eventually discussed. The accelerated warming of the oceans is likely the main contributor.”

Criticism of the Reuters story was taken up across the blogosphere. Comments contributed to some of these postings said the writer of the story under whose byline it was issued should not be blamed for its tone as the edited version on the Reuters service may well have been substantially altered from the original.

Insiders say internal discussion over Reuters’ new direction came to a head two weeks ago in an “open disagreement” between the editor for Europe, the Middle East and Africa,
Michael Stott, and the new managing editor, Paul Ingrassia, who was moved to London from New York in April. Ingrassia, who was recruited to Reuters in 2011 as deputy editor-in-chief, had been a long-time motor industry writer for The Wall Street Journal and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for his reporting of a management crisis at General Motors. He said in April that his new appointment to London put him at “the geographic centre” of the news operation.

The result of the reported row was Stott’s abrupt dismissal after a 25-year, high-profile career with Reuters. The two editors had differed previously about a global warming story that quoted climate scientists at the time of Hurricane Sandy in New York last October. Stott himself is saying nothing about the circumstances of his departure.